In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

P R E F A C E The Latin Physiologus and its enlarged form, the bestiary, are among the best known types of mediaeval didactic literature. They are frequently cited today as examples of serious works of natural history in an age which supposedly relied wholly on tradition from the distant past, and also as illustrations of the naive credulity of a people who could accept the tale of the capture of the Unicorn as an allegorical representation of the Incarnation. Both statements incline to err in the amount of emphasis and acceptance which they place on each of the two parts of this picturesque compilation — the fabulous description of the real or imaginary animal or bird and the Christian moralization which is derived from it. No collection which repeats the same animal tales in an unchanged form from the earliest centuries of the Christian era down to and, in exceptional cases, even through the Renaissance, can be called anything but a long-lived, uncritical work recording popular tradition. Nor can illustrations used by the Church Fathers to render subtle theological concepts more intelligible and vivid to the unlettered people be presumed to prove that mediaeval man actually believed such examples as were perpetuated in the Physiologus and later the bestiary. The present monograph, although treating the second element, the religious, only in a very brief manner, is intended to describe the nature of the contents of the Physiologusin the animal realm and to clarify the complicated manuscript tradition. Few general studies on the Physiologus exist in English, and it is hoped that the results of some years of pleasurable research which are presented here will be of help to future students who enter the interesting world of the Phoenix, the Siren, and the watchful Lion. This survey in no way claims definitiveness; it is to be considered more as an interim guide, and its purpose will be unfulfilled if within a short time it is not superseded by a more comprehensive examination of manuscripts and contents. Because 8 MEDIAEVAL BESTIARIES of a personal preference for illustrated manuscripts I have largely neglected those barren of pictures of any sort. Although there doubtless remains something, and maybe even much, to be learned from the large number of unillustrated Physiologus manuscripts in Europe, at this point of investigation it appears that all observations based on illustrated manuscripts apply equally well to the rest. This examination of the origin and development of the Physiologus begins with a short survey of the hypotheses regarding the background of the Greek Physiologus from which the earliest Latin versions were translated. Next the involved question of the various families of Latin manuscripts is reviewed, and the establishment of orderly though inevitably over-simplified groups of versions is presented. Most of the Latin illustrated manuscripts of whose nature I am certain, since they were seen either by means of microfilms or in reality, have been listed in the appropriate place. The total number and kind of extant manuscripts have not, however, been recorded. Closely related to the Latin Physiologus are the four principal French bestiaries of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These have been viewed with particular reference to their Latin antecedents with both similarities and differences pointed out though not in every case explained because of the numerous puzzles that still tantalizingly exist in this corner of research. A brief outline of the appearance of illustrated manuscripts concludes the first part of this study, which has largely been concerned with the external form of the Physiologus. The second part, comprised of the long Chapter Five, the Appendix, and the Plates, presents in alphabetical order resumes of the contents of the Latin and French bestiaries (this term being used to include all versions related to the Physiologus ) as well as some fifty-six line drawings to show the way in which the often fantastic verbal descriptions were visually portrayed by the mediaeval illustrator. Throughout the work full bibliographical details are given at the first reference to a book or article. Many people both known and unknown have helped in the course of this research by their information freely shared and, quite as important, by their interest and encotwagement over a long period of time. Nor can I forget the very real material aid afforded by two grants from the Smith Research Fund of the University of North Carolina and one from the Committee on Faculty Research of Sweet Briar College for the purchase of microfilm, as well as...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.